What Does Antisemitism Look Like in 2022?


Image by Aviva Clauer.

Aviva Clauer, Photo Editor

Fall of 2022 has brought about an alarming rise of antisemitism in America. Often mere weeks or days after one, another a new headline appears with unnerving similarities to the last. Take Kanye, for example. More comfortable in his prejudice than ever before, “I like Hitler” came out of his mouth on Dec. 1 while meeting with a conspiracy theorist as well as a Holocaust denier. And I thought, back in October, “Kanye was right about the Jews” was an alarmingly unexpected tagline to see two weeks after his antisemitic tweets and Tucker Carlson interview broke the internet. 


Yet, December has come along, and I expected nothing more than his hateful sentiment to appear in the news again. I’ve become used to not just Kanye’s actions but also the way they have sustained the flourishing spread of societal antisemitism.


Although Kanye is not the initiator of widespread American antisemitism, it is certainly arguable that he inaugurated its most recent wave. With an audience as large as his, people inherently feel  influenced by what he says and does. Since his actions were clearly hateful, an overwhelming majority condemned and withdrew support for him. For example, Adidas dropped their partnership because it was recognizable that he was in the wrong. 


Nonetheless, included in that same audience are people like the protesters in Los Angeles who call him “right” for hating Jews; ultimately from Kanye numerous people are prompted, through either validation in their already abhorrent beliefs or new influence by him directly, to perpetrate further antisemitism.


Some headlines that appeared subsequent to Kanye’s controversy include:


Oct. 25: Western Washington University investigating anti-Semitic graffiti on ‘free speech board’


Nov. 14: Antisemitic Graffiti Found on Bethesda Trolley Trail


Nov. 17: Bomb threat at Jewish school in Philadelphia forces students to evacuate


Nov. 26: Man yells antisemitic statements, does Nazi salute at Seattle airport


Obviously, these events are independent of one another. Still, they all derive from the same antisemitic sentiment, which has been passed down generationally for the majority of Jewish history. 


In modern times, such beliefs commonly also spread through mass media. Social media in particular plays a unique role in influencing the general public. Because it allows much relaying of unfiltered content and dialogue, fact-based news is often misconstrued and sentiments of hate are given the liberty to freely spread.


Gavriella Geller, the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau American Jewish Committee (JCRB|AJC), explains the significant impact social media has on spreading antisemitic ideas. 


“We’re not reading newspapers. We’re not watching CNN at night. We’re on TikTok and Instagram and that’s where we get our information,” she says of Millennial and Gen-Z generations. “The ability to quickly spread those kinds of ideas and expose people with those ideas is unprecedented, compared with pre-social media days,” says Geller.

Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy (HBHA) is a place where students foster Jewish pride and can find comfort amidst antisemitism. Image by Aviva Clauer

Also consequential in the rising rates of antisemitism is the normalization of casual antisemitism. Social media is often a safe space for perhaps “lighthearted” Holocaust jokes or stereotypically prejudiced commentary to circulate. Such measures, true, are not as immediately harmful or threatening as are violent, indisputably reprehensible actions. Yet, these jokes are dangerous by nature because of their ability to seem insignificant. People who’ve condemned Kanye likely see other circumstances of antisemitism unknowingly because what’s in front of their eyes isn’t immediately condemned.


Take Dave Chappelle. As someone who watched his Nov. 12 SNL monologue live, I can attest that, about a third of the way through, I shifted from finding his jokes about Jews moderately funny to feeling uncomfortable in his casual imposition of age-old antisemitic tropes, such as that Jews control the media (which he conveyed by stating “It’s not crazy to think” that “Jews run show business”). It’s when problematic themes are expressed through nonchalant banter that those beliefs best take root subconsciously in the long-term ideologies of listeners.


Geller agrees that comedic antisemitism can sometimes be more dangerous than blunt animosity. “By pouching bigotry in comedy,” she explains, “you get people to laugh, you get people to let their guard down, and it’s sort of a more effective way of perpetuating those ideas than just being explicitly hateful.” If you can “massage that [comedic] delivery and do it in a way that’s more accessible” than vicious antisemitism, Geller says, your audience is “able to internalize and absorb that information even more.”


Ultimately, there is no simple way to reduce the spread of antisemitism. With such a vast variety of expressive forms and the modern media in such impactful positions, it is nearly impossible to tackle the problem at its roots and find comprehensive solutions. What can be done, however, is spreading awareness and increasing education on antisemitism.

Antisemitism had historically faced our local Jewish community significantly. Pictured at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) is a monument for the victims of the 2014 shooting that left 3 dead, as depicted in the three metal waves. Image by Aviva Clauer

Geller says that the most important steps Jews can take are educating themselves, maintaining Jewish pride, learning media literacy, and mobilizing legislative advocacy. 


She states that Jews should “be willing to be that Jewish ambassador to other communities and cultures” and break down barriers in the way of cross-cultural tolerance. Geller says, “Those relationships, on a one-to-one basis, really help foster an understanding and a destigmatization of Jews as this weird, foreign ‘other.’”


However, the responsibility of combatting antisemitism can not and should not fall on Jews alone. “Jews are actually not the ones that can end antisemitism,” Geller says. “We didn’t start antisemitism, it doesn’t exist because of anything that we did. It exists because other people are antisemitic.”


“We’re 2% of the American population,” Geller says, and “0.2% of the global population. We are not in the room most of the time antisemitic comments are made. Who is in that room that’s gonna stand up and speak up for us?”


So, as I conclude, I ask you, reader: What are you doing to combat this country’s plague of antisemitism? Think about it.


Now consider standing up. Consider speaking out. Consider doing more.